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Rich Nichols likes cheese.

And he wants you to like it, too.

Although he admits being raised on ”that cheap yellow cheese,” he’s glad his palate has evolved.

”It wasn’t until I grew up and became an adult that I started enjoying good cheeses,” he said. ”And traveling in Europe for the last 15 years; that’s where cheese really got to my heart—and I don’t mean cholesterol. I started to appreciate them.”

Based on his observation that most European cities have a cheese store on every corner, Nichols had an idea for ”a business opportunity” for his later years.

So five years ago, he opened The Cheese Ranch in downtown Golden and stocked his cheese cooler with some of his favorites.

When asked what makes The Cheese Ranch different than other cheese coolers found in grocery stores, Nichols, known among the locals as the ’head cheese,’  says it’s an inside job.

It’s all about the artisan ingredients, he said.

From the rotating selection of locally sourced and imported cheeses, to his gourmet deli sandwiches and charcuterie plates, Nichols says it’s nothing but the best.

And sometimes, the best can be challenging.

”Colorado is not a big cheese production state, to begin with,” Nichols explained. “You’ve only got a handful of producers throughout the state.”

Sourcing what he can locally, Nichols says he also sources cheeses from Iowa and Massachusetts, with European favorites from Spain, France, Holland, Germany and Italy.

Cheese often is misunderstood in the U.S., and Nichols wants folks to know that good cheese is to be enjoyed in moderation.

”When you have a good cheese, you really don’t want to gorge yourself on it,” he cautioned. ”You want to enjoy it, and by purchasing a small amount of three different cheeses, you can touch a whole lot of bases at one time.”

Along with artisan cheese and sandwiches, The Cheese Ranch has a complete collection of hard goods, including cheese boards, knives, salamis, pickles, salsas and specialized nuts.

Nichols even has a certified cheese professional on staff, Callum Pagrave, who packs impressive credentials from the American Cheese Society.

The Cheese Ranch serves up cheese fondue by reservation on Fridays, served from what Nichols speculates is the most extensive collection of fondue posts in the state.